Nicole Gasparini

Tulane University
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


Course Description: Geomorphology is the study of landforms and the processes that shape landforms. Historically, geomorphology has focused on identifying landforms, but the goal of this course is for you to gain a quantitative understanding of surface processes. Once you understand how surface processes work, you will have a better idea of how a landscape evolved to its' present state, and how the landscape could change in the future. Both climate and tectonics play an important role in shaping the earth's surface, and in turn, surface processes can affect climate and tectonics. Increasingly, humans are also becoming an important "geomorphic agent", and human influences on surface processes may rival the importance of climate and tectonics.

Course URL:
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is a Junior level course. The only prerequisite is Introductory Physical Geology. The course is required for Environmental Science majors, but it is not required for Geology majors. The course does not currently have a separate lab time.

Course Goals:

  • Students should be able to look at landscapes, either directly in the field, or by using DEMs, topo maps, or aerial photos, and identify the major processes shaping the landscape.
  • Students should be able to identify the major variables that influence different landscape-shaping processes.
  • Students should be able to perform basic field skills, including note taking, sketch making, and surveying using a hand level.
  • Students should be able to evaluate results from simple numerical profile evolution models to quantify and compare time to steady-state, relief and profile form.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The students have three large projects that are designed around these goals. Course activities to support these goals include lectures and class discussion and class time in the computer room and in the field. The students also have a number of short assignments to prepare them for the large projects. I asses the students based on their performance on these assignments and projects.

Skills Goals

  • quantitative abilities
  • oral communication
  • presentation skills

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Each student gave two class presentations, and I also held bi-weekly discussions to improve their oral communication and presentation skills. I used these discussions and presentations to assess whether the students were improving their oral communication and presentation skills.

We discussed quantitative approaches to problems extensively in class, and quantitative problems were included in their projects and assignments. I used the projects and assignments to assess their quantitative skills.